At the heart of Pai Lum are the forms we learn. They are the books of White Dragon Kung Fu. For those who understand them, our forms contain the strategies, tactics and the techniques of the Way of the White Dragon. While full understanding takes many years, as you progress in your learning, you will understand more of your forms - and they will further your understanding.
The forms of Pai Lum teach you to fight and fly like a Dragon - they are another language, and once you understand it, that understanding will never leave you. You will move with balance, grace, and power; you will understand and be one with your body, and you will extend your limits.
Pai Lum forms include movements of the animals central to Kung Fu: the Dragon, the Crane, the Tiger, the Snake, and the Leopard, as well as many others such as monkey, praying mantis, eagle, hawk and cobra. We learn from them all, although the Dragon is of course of particular importance! It can be seen in such forms as Dragon Dance, Pai Lum, and Thousand Steps.
The Crane and Tiger are also central to our Way, and we find the Tiger for example in the Three Short Forms, Inner Tiger and Outer Tiger, while the Crane is seen in Flowing Motion Three.
As we grow in understanding of a form, we learn that there are the obvious kicks, blocks and punches, but there are also less obvious moves - concealed, as are the defences of the Ceremonial Bow. Locks, breaks, sweeps, Pong Hila strikes - look carefully, with the guidance of your Instructor. In a sense, the forms act as mnemonics - teachers and students perform the forms and remember techniques. More than remembering, they train their bodies to remember!
Basic forms teach us how to breathe, stand and walk, how to move from one stance to another. More advanced forms teach more advanced techniques including flying kicks and special strikes, with complex series of moves and responses to attacks.
In Pai Lum, there are often different versions of our forms - and from each we learn different aspects. These versions have often arisen as different interpretations and understandings are given prominence by senior Instructors. The student should try to understand one version first before broadening his or her understanding with learning different versions.
While the tradition of Pai Lum is in itself strong, a part of our strength is our adaptability - our ability to change, learn, and grow stronger. This is reflected in our forms, which evolve over time, and some of which are brought into our style by senior Instructors.
When practicing your forms, first learn the techniques and an application. As your understanding and coordination grow, you can allow your speed to increase, and with guidance, develop a phrasing which is suitable for you and reflects the spirit of the form. Practice slowly, for perfection, and when you know the form, practice for your life. Your form is your life.